BBG Watch Commentary
Having relinquished control to the Russian side in a desperate attempt to get access to a TV audience in Russia, Voice of America (VOA) executives are likely to continue to agree to topics for a new weekly discussion program with the Russian Business Channel (RBC) that favor and promote key propaganda themes advanced by the Kremlin. Judging by what the Russian state media reports this week, the most current propaganda and disinformation topic being promoted by the Kremlin is NATO’s threat to Russia.
BBG Watch predicts that this will be in fact the topic selected by the Russian side for this week’s joint program between the Voice of America Russian Service and the Russian Business Channel rather than Russia’s threat to peace and stability in Europe.
Anything dealing with NATO automatically puts Voice of America and the United States on the defensive and diverts attention from the real Russian military aggression in Ukraine and threats to peace and stability in the region.
It would be very unlikely if the Russian side selected any other topic for this week’s program with the Voice of America and also very unlikely for the Voice of America executives not to agree to it.
Last week’s topic cleverly selected and pushed by the Russian side was “evidence” for the presence of Russia’s troops in Ukraine. VOA executives fell for it and the program was so poorly handled by VOA host and participants and so totally controlled by the Russian side that it resulted in a resounding propaganda victory for the Russians.
Many experts consulted by BBG Watch concluded that if the Russians were not certain that these so-called “co-produced programs” with the Voice of America, which in fact are completely controlled by the Russian side, would not help their propaganda and disinformation campaign, neither the authorities — including the Kremlin’s media advisors, the FSB and the Russian military — nor the RBC management would agree to putting such programs with VOA on the air in Russia. Our experts concluded that the first program last week actually reinforced support for President Putin by showing that the U.S. side had no convincing proof of Russian troops’ presence in Ukraine. The performance of the VOA side was so poor that the program likely helped to reinforce in Russia and among Russian speakers elsewhere key propaganda themes pushed by the Kremlin.
Even if the Voice of America manages to get a much better guest for the program with the RBC this week, the Russian side will make sure to put her or him on the defensive with the likely selection of the discussion topic such as NATO’s threat to Russia.
NATO is such a great topic for the Russian side in the view of media and propaganda experts who advise President Putin that we are fairly certain this will indeed be what the next Voice of America – Russian Business Channel show will focus on. The show this week will likely produce another propaganda victory for the Russian side even if VOA finds a much stronger guest expert than it had last week and changes the host of the VOA portion of the program.
The first program was so completely controlled and dominated by the Russian side, which was in fact in charge of the “kill button,” that there is no reason to believe that the second show will be any different, considering the VOA management’s lack of knowledge and skills in how to manage such projects so that they do not end up damaging the U.S. image abroad. The ultimate irony is that U.S. taxpayers are paying for helping Russia score propaganda points against the U.S.
Let’s hope that the second VOA – RBC show will not actually help to increase support for President Putin in Russia, but chances are that it will. The Russian side will make sure that NATO and the United States are presented as the aggressors and Russia as the victim.